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Mandala of Life and Death

Wellington Museum of Land & Sea
Death & Diversity Exhibition, 2011

Buddhist Circle of Life & Death
Insights From Amitbha Buddhist Hospice, presented at a public talk during the Death & Diversity Exhibition at the Imagine the Land artist talk

The geometry of a Mandala has very intricate and deep meanings on many levels. On one level it represents Enlightenment manifested as a pure world system, it also shows the interconnectedness of life, the matrix of energies that shape our world and our experience in life, transcendence of life, its impermanence and eternity.

The Tibetan Buddhist view on Life, Death, the Bardo & After life is vast and profound.

In relation to life: we are trained to live mindfully, to develop a good heart, to embrace compassion and wisdom understanding reality. We are taught that being kind, respecting & cherishing all beings and giving service will bring meaning to our lives. The law of depended arising is followed (every action/reaction depends in innumerable causes & conditions); every action has an effect – karma is understood and impermanence is encouraged to be contemplated daily. In this world the Buddha taught that we are in the nature of suffering (samsara), the causes of suffering come from negative actions & thoughts, the cessation of suffering will lead to the path to enlightenment. Enlightenment is the total consummation of negativities and the total embracement of wisdom and good qualities (nirvana).

In relation to death: we prepare throughout our lives for death. Death is extremely important; the last thought during this life could propel us to a lower or higher migration. During this period realizations can be attained easier, as the mind is not bound to a gross body. Tibetan Buddhism explains that during the death process the four elements & space within our bodies (earth, water, fire & air) dissolve into one another, and into consciousness itself. Then consciousness dissolves into more subtle states of mind and this into the death clear light. If one meditates on this process during life, becoming familiarized of its phases, when the actual death comes, one will have total control of the mind and when the clear light of death manifests one will be able to meditate on the true nature of the mind attaining thus enlightenment.

In relation to the bardo: if the mind has no familiarization with its true nature, the mind will be reborn spontaneously in the bardo, having a bardo body, similar to a dream body. Propelled by the power of karma the bardo body will be reborn in another union of a sperm & egg, completing thus a full cycle of rebirth.

When enlightenment is attained one will manifest as fully enlightened Buddha or Deity, within a pure enlightened world system or Mandala.

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